intensity and sensitivity

“One could say that one who manifests a given form of overexcitability.. sees reality in a different, stronger and more multisided manner. 

“Reality for such an individual ceases to be indifferent but affects [them] deeply and leaves long-lasting impressions. 

“Enhanced excitability is thus a means for more frequent interactions and a wider    range of experiencing.”

                                                                                                             – Kazimierz Dabrowski 


Often, gifted children are described by their parents as being ‘too much’. Too intense, too sensitive, too emotional, too moralistic, perfectionistic, argumentative, stubborn, defiant… and so the list goes on! Such traits are common to giftedness; indeed; they even seem to be an inherent part of it. Maybe your daughter can’t bear the labels in her clothing or the seams in her socks, or you have a son who is moved to tears by a piece of music, a beautiful sunset, or piece of art?  You may also have a child that just seems to constantly ask questions about the world and how it works, and has an insatiable curiosity. Gifted kids often perceive the world and stimuli around them in more depth than other children may. It is important to note that although this difference is never an excuse for bad behaviour, the experiences of these children is real: the child who is having a tantrum and is begging to get changed because their jumper is itchy, or the one who is crying because they have been wounded by a seemingly benign comment in the playground, really does feel as strongly as their behaviour suggests. To better understand both your child’s, and your own, sensitivities or intensity and then put strategies in place to help better cope with such experiences, it is useful to look at the work of Polish psychologist, Dabrowski, and his conception of what he called supersensitivities or overexcitabilities. Dabrowski describes five areas, or OE’s that can be linked to giftedness: Psychomotor, Sensual, Emotional, Intellectual, and Imaginational. Gifted children tend to have more than one of these intensities, although one is often dominant. For more information on how such overexcitabilities may affect your child then read the below articles and watch the short video at the bottom of this page.

This article offers an easy to read introduction to Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities and how they may present in a child.

Follow this link  for tips on managing intensity and sensitivity within a family.

If your child is emotionally intense then this article by Lesley Sword may be worth a read, and if you or your gifted child are particularly morally sensitive or empathetic then it’s definitely worth checking out Silverman’s The Moral Sensitivity of Gifted Children and the Evolution of Society.

Overexcitabilities and the Gifted

This video is an excerpt from a SENG webinar exploring Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities, and the joys and challenges associated with such sensitivities and intensity.

If you have a gifted child who is sensitive to sensory input then you may find the below slide show of interest :)

Addressing the Sensory Sensitivities of Gifted Students from Angela Housand